Tag Archive for Idea and Innovation Management

New Solutions and Case Studies for Federal Contractors

We continue to enhance our support for Federal Government Contractors.  We just updated the Federal Contractor microsite section of our web site.  Assuming that you have been there before, press CNTRL-F5 to refresh the content.

We now highlight 5 solutions for Federal Contractors.  We have 6 new Case Studies for a total of 10.  The solutions are:

  • IDIQ Task Order Management
  • Capture and Proposal Management
  • Program, Project and Portfolio Management
  • Idea and Innovation Management (new)
  • Shared Services Work Management Environments

For an overview of our Federal Contractor vertical in 2012 and solution plans in 2013 see the following article:

CorasWorks’ Federal Contractor Business Grows 75% in 2012 Fueled by Accelerating Industry Competition–Review and 2013 Plans

Do More With Less and Do More for Less

The new solutions and case studies are evidence of our core message to Federal Contractors which is how we enable them to Do More With Less (the competitive business value) and Do More For Less (our cost improvement value proposition).  As we invest in this area and “standardize” the solutions, our value proposition just gets stronger.

The key is that CorasWorks on SharePoint is a platform approach that is enabling Federal Contractors to get great leverage through a Shared Services model.  Once you have the platform in place, any and all of the solutions we offer or that you build can be dropped in, natively integrated, re-purposed, enhanced and extended.  It just works.

Make sure to look at the 2 case studies under “Shared Services Work Management Environments”.  These given a sense of how this approach has worked for a 1,000 person and a 20,000 person organization.


CorasWorks’ Federal Contractor Business Grows 75% in 2012 Fueled by Accelerating Industry Competition–Review and 2013 Plans

In 2012, we started our Federal Government Contractor practice.  Federal Contractors (including Aerospace & Defense providers) have been a significant part of CorasWorks’ business since we began in 2003.  In 2012, we created a dedicated team to focus on this industry and build and deliver industry specific solutions.  With the increased competition in this industry in recent years and the threat of the Fiscal Cliff and Sequestration in 2013 – we figured it was the perfect time to engage deeply and help our customers Do More for Less and drive their competitive position.  We focused on solutions for the internal operations of Federal Contractors.  In this article, I do a review of our work in this industry in 2012 and provide you with a heads up of our plans for 2013.

2012 in Review

  • Our business with Federal Government contractors for internal use grew 75%, making it our fastest growing industry segment last year
  • We served a broad group of Top 100 Federal Contractors such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Rockwell-Collins, HP Enterprise Services, Booz Allen Hamilton, BAE Systems, Serco, Chenega and Salient.
  • We focused our industry-specific solution investment in solutions for Business Development (BD) Operations, particularly IDIQ-based activities for Prime and Sub-contractors – a major area of intense competition in 2012 and going forward.
  • We expanded our BD solution set to integrate with existing Proposal Development applications and introduced solutions for Capture & Proposal Management providing comprehensive visibility and process management for BD operations
  • We began the process of cross-industry pollination, by bringing solutions from other industry customers into Federal Contractors such as Idea Challenge Management and Work Management for Engineering and Resource Planning and Program Management/Delivery based upon the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management solution
  • We continued to expand our footprint in the Federal Government (Military and Civilian) with large deployments in the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines that enables Federal Contractors to leverage CorasWorks on SharePoint to deliver more competitive services and systems to their customers.

We learned a great deal more about the industry, the solutions, and the way of working within Federal Contractors over the year.  It is pretty clear that the internal operations of Federal Contractors have a lot of room to benefit by increased efficiency and effectiveness.  The BD area of IDIQ work was a real winner where most customers have a) older, legacy systems or b) nothing but email (NBE).  We’ve taken this segment to a new level in terms of lower cost and higher efficiency and effectiveness.  The best testament of our success with BD solutions and in other Federal Contractor business functions are our Customer Successes.  You can read about these by looking at articles of this blog (See Category of Federal Government Contractors, with 9 articles, or by a specific solution Category) or reading about our Solutions and Case Studies at our Federal Contractor micro-site of the CorasWorks web site.

What’s Ahead in 2013

Sequestration still looms. Continued increase in competition is a fact.  To help you compete, we are pushing our Collaborative Work Management solutions for Federal Contractors forward in 2013 in the following areas:

  • We will continue our focus on solutions for BD Operations.  Here you simply have to be at your best.  We will continue to move our IDIQ oriented solutions forward to make our customers the top in internal efficiency and effectiveness and the robustness of partner engagement.  We are also deepening our integration and support for Capture & Proposal Management activities and integration with third-party legacy applications for CRM (notably Deltek GovWin’s CRM), ERP, HR, and Contract Administration.
  • We are “verticalizing” the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management solution to more specifically support work for Program Management, Delivery and Operations in Federal Contractors (what you do after you win the business – the downstream activities).
  • We are deepening our presence in the Engineering business function by bringing Engineering solutions from other industries into the Federal Contractor space, such as Engineering Work Management, Configuration Management, Idea and Innovation Management, Resource Planning and Demand Management.  This need is being accelerated as our customers start separating their services business from their systems businesses and are looking to set new benchmarks in the management of globally distributed engineering resources.
  • We will continue to expand our set of solutions for cross-functional activities with corporate functions such as HR, IT, Finance, and Legal and cross-pollinate these solutions into our customer base.
  • We are putting new programs in place to help our Federal Contractor customers build CorasWorks competencies internally that help them be more competitive when delivering solutions to Federal customers that leverage SharePoint – a growing segment of the services sector.

CorasWorks – At Your Service

In 2013, it is not going to get any easier to win business or deliver it profitably.  The way to succeed is by getting better and being more innovative.  As part of this we feel that you truly do need to a) eliminate the noise of redundant, ad hoc, wasted activity, b) break the silos, and c) provide the visibility and embedded collaboration to focus resources when and where you need it.

As innovative leaders in Collaborative Work Management solutions on SharePoint and with our focus on Federal Government Contractors we can help you get you where you want and need to be – more quickly, at less cost and with less risk.  We look forward to serving you in 2013.


Exploring Different Adoption Continuums for Idea and Innovation Management

We’ve been active in the Idea and Innovation Management solution area for a few years.  Initially, we introduced a point solution, CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint, to compete with the primarily SAAS solutions in the market.  Over the years, we have evolved to look at the “right” solution for innovation as a flexible set of modules/solutions that can be applied at the right time with the right stuff to match where our customer is along their continuum.  In this article, I’ll take a look at quite different adoption continuums (phased rollouts) from two organizations.  I’ll then provide you with my thoughts on which is most right.

The Top Down “Enthusiastic” Continuum

I was recently on a call with a new prospect that has a newly assembled “innovation team” representing their 18,000 person company.  They brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the task of evaluating us, vetting their approach, and seeking to understand product alternatives.  Leveraging the range of CorasWorks solutions and the flexibility of our software, we came up with a continuum for a phased approach to adoption.  it goes like this…

1. General Enterprise Idea Capture and Collaboration – Let’s call it the “idea exchange”.  They want to start off with an enterprise-wide idea capture and collaboration portal.  The reference site/solution is My Starbucks which is basically an inbox for public ideas with collaboration.  It is for the capture of general ideas about anything.  Our customer wants to start off with a similar type of site, but, only for internal employees across the enterprise.

2. Idea Management – They realize that they will have to then manage the contributed ideas through a process to decide what they will implement.  This is the necessary, but, mostly un-fun part of the equation. The “innovation team” will layout and manage the process.

3. Specific Challenges – Once they have that going, they want to engage business groups and launch specific, event-driven challenges.  Each challenge will be “owned” by the business group and they will manage their own process.  CorasWorks supports challenges and separate processes.

4. Collaborative Communities – This customer recognizes the value of introducing collaborative communities into the mix.  This would come after the basics above.  They are used for recognition, knowledge, communities of purpose, and, as hotbeds for collaboration to lead to ideas. In their case, this step is very powerful because they have a distributed organization with 100’s of offices and many services so they can greatly benefit by enabled this virtual collaboration.

5. Portfolio and Execution Integration – Assuming success as above, they envision the ability to look top down and across the activities.  Thus, they want to be able to see the broader innovation portfolio that includes the Idea Exchange and the specific Challenges.  They also want visibility into the downstream execution of ideas done with various project-oriented tools.

6. Open Innovation – Lastly, once the internal innovation is up and going, they will be looking to open it up to their external communities. 

The above 6 phases of the continuum represent logical enhancements/extensions to innovation.  This continuum is common for those that are new to innovation and armed with a top down enterprise mandate.  CorasWorks supports each of these phases.  They could be implemented separately as different modules or as the customer advances through their continuum, the extensions would be added on.

The Bottom Up “Practical” Continuum

For comparison, we recently implemented a customer using a more bottom up “practical” continuum.  The customer is a 9,000 person division of one of the top 10 largest federal systems integrators/government contractor.  They have been a CorasWorks customers for about 5 years.  We started talking to them about Idea and Innovation Management 2 years ago.  They came to us with an enthusiastic “innovation team” evaluating product alternatives as in the above example and following a top down approach.  For 2 years, nothing happened.

A couple of months ago a business group of 800 people within the division came to us and said basically “okay, we are ready to go”.  They were implemented within 2 weeks of the start of the project.  They had their Idea Portal up and running with 6 challenges across 3 departments.  They were capturing ideas and starting the review process.  Their continuum looks like this…

1. Challenges for Their One Business Group – launch a few very specific challenges for one business group that are each managed through a simple and common process by one team within the business group

2. Get better within the Business Group – their objective is to get better at launching more relevant/effective challenges (think about it as evaluating the challenge and the result vs. just the ideas) and at managing the process.  Their approach is that the particulars of their management/decision process will be baked out by using the software.  As an existing CorasWorks customer, they are very aware of the ability to change processes on the fly as needed.

3. Division/Other Business Group Challenges – The division is trying to innovate also using manual methods.  The idea is that at a point where the approach is validated at the business group level, they will take it up to the division level or to other business groups to do their own challenges.  Note that in this phase, they are effectively creating separate clusters for challenge management that are managed locally.

That’s it at this time…

Which is the right approach

I’d like to say it depends.  However, our experience is that the top down, enterprise approach is not effective as measured by the perceived business results and the longevity of an innovation initiative.  In fact, for most organizations that come to us with this top down “enthusiastic” approach, not much happens, and if they do get started, a year or so later the initiative fades away.  While it is logical, the real world doesn’t seem to work that way.  Thus, in the case of the prospect noted above, while we laid out their continuum, I did my best to educate them on our experience with that approach and made some progress. 

There are a host of factors here.  However, at the core is that innovation is a process that requires work, trial, learning, maturation, and, success.  People these days often enthusiastically come to the game to leverage collaborative technologies to tap their workforce, but, they lack the commitment necessary to follow through the full life cycle to show the results.  If you are asking people to take the time to contribute ideas and collaborate, and you fail to follow through with decisions and results, do not expect to build momentum. 

Alternatively, if you start bottom up, with very specific challenges, and build on your success (as in the bottom up “practical” approach) you simply have a much greater chance of succeeding over time.  You build momentum.  Think Facebook.  They did not start by launching a broad social web portal to compete against MySpace.  They built it up one college at a time to become the massive, multi-cluster network that it is. 

On the flip side, too much process discussion and diagramming to start can also kill an innovation initiative.  You need some process to start or else you have no credible way of evaluating ideas, making decisions, and investing. However, your process should evolve as you learn.

As you might conclude, we do support all of the different solutions mentioned above that might appear on Your continuum.  Each solution is modular and they can all be phased in and inter-connected as your system evolves. Yet, CorasWorks is really taking a fundamentally different approach from most pure product vendors.  By design, our software is unusually flexible and therefore supports continuous innovation of your system. The real value with CorasWorks is not necessarily what you get from “the box” when you get started, it is about having a solution that is easy to get started and evolves as you move through your innovation continuum. 


The What is Working? Solution. Using Cim to Drive Continuous Improvement

We often talk about CorasWorks Cim to be used as a tool to drive innovation.  Therefore, we tend to think of new ideas, processes, and creating something novel.  However, one of the biggest opportunities for larger organizations is taking things that are already working and get them working in other parts of the organization. I’ll present you with a solution we call “What is Working?” and describe how this simple mechanism can drive continuous improvement.

Your organization is already innovative.  If it wasn’t you’d be out of business.  Your people already are doing really effective things.  They came up with ideas and implemented them, usually at a local level.  Someone, somewhere, is doing something valuable in the most effective way.  Who are they and where are they?  What if you could find out and then give it visibility so that others could also be doing things that way?

The problem is that people don’t necessarily think of good practices that they are doing as brand new innovations. They don’t know, what others don’t know.  So, instead of just focusing on innovation, you have to use messaging and provide a channel to your organization that is explicitly focused on getting people to share what is working for them.

Let’s call this solution “What is Working?”.  Your objective is to get your people to tell the rest of the organization what is working for them, their team, their group.  What you find out is that what is working for people at a local level, maybe they’ve been doing it for years, is not common knowledge or practice.  To that local group, it isn’t a novel, innovative idea.  But, to lots of others, it is brilliant.


How you would implement it

- You launch a “What is Working?” campaign

- You tell your organization “We are often so overwhelmed with how innovative you all are.  You just come up with great ways of doing things.  We really want you to share what you are doing so that others can learn.  If other people pick up your way of working, we will reward you for sharing.  We are providing a channel to make this easy and natural to do.”

- You then provide a Cim community for people to share and collaborate.

- You enable the Cim peer review mechanism so that others can try out a “way to work”, get results, and share the results with the community.

- You have a group of people to keep track of and manage the flow.

- You then provide a mechanism to provide recognition and rewards for things that people are doing that they share, that are copied, and, that prove to work.

-  You use “What is Working?” to then drive other activities such as an Enterprise Best Practices process, to kick off bigger idea, and to augment your Training curriculum.


Wrap Up

In sum, launching a “What is Working?” campaign is an easy and effective step to drive continuous improvement.  It starts with the recognition that people don’t know what others don’t know.  By sharing what works for them others learn and can collaborate.  In many instances, people that share will find even better ways of doing something and/or just validation from others.  They also make connections with others from around the world that are working in areas where they are working and care about getting better.

The nice thing about “What is Working?” is that you don’t need a lot of back end process.  In effect, the community, through sharing and collaboration, becomes self-innovative.  People now have a channel to share what they do and learn what others do in an open way.  It puts a mechanism in place and a burden on people to self-improve.  The management group participates to encourage, recognize, reward, and take findings to drive bigger adoption and better results.


Use Challenges to Drive Results with Enterprise Innovation

There are a lot of organizations that are new to Idea & Innovation Management solutions such as CorasWorks Cim for SharePoint 2010.  One of the most significant best practices we emphasize for those new to innovation is the use of event-based Challenges to drive innovation vs. general idea communities.  In this article, I’ll drill down into Challenges as a key ingredient in the standard enterprise recipe for innovation.


Specific Challenges vs. General Idea Management

First off most organizations use both approaches, general idea management and specific challenges. A mix is the best recipe. Let’s look at each.

Most organizations initially come to the idea and innovation game with the thought of having a general idea community to capture ideas and sort through them and find the great ones. It is typically implemented as an open, ongoing community with a team or teams for evaluation.  What they are looking for is breakthrough ideas?  This does work.  People will randomly come up with novel ideas and you are providing a channel and a mechanism to work them when they pop up.

A Challenge-based approach to drive innovation is different.  A Challenge is a targeted, time-limited, request to your community for ideas that address a specific objective.  With this approach, we first decide what business objective we are after.  And, ideally, upfront we allocate resources to invest in ideas we approve.  We then set up the challenge community (like questions asked, information to be submitted) and evaluation process (how, who, when, etc.) in a way that specifically relates to the challenge.  Then, we launch the Challenge, gather the ideas, collaborate, review, evaluate, make decisions, invest, and drive results.


Specific Benefits of a Challenge Approach

A Challenge approach delivers specific benefits as follows:

It Focuses Management on Defining the Challenge – Management must get clear on the challenge and how to present it to the organization.  This insures that the challenge is a real one.

It Focuses Your Innovators and Collaborators Thoughts on the Challenge – Imagine saying to your employees “When you get around to it, submit ideas to make us better” vs. saying “You have 2 weeks to submit your idea for how we can grow the SMB market by 50% in 2012. We have $2m to invest.”  It is simply easier for most people to focus their thinking on something specific.  And, you therefore get specific ideas that are relevant to the challenge.

You Have the Resources to Act – If you get general ideas, they can come from anywhere.  Thus, you can’t know in advance if you have the will and resources to act.  But with a challenge you know what you are asking for.  Thus, you have the will.  You also can align the resources in advance to insure that you can and will act. You are telling your community that you intend to drive change that drives results.

You Uncover Options to Narrow Challenges – We typically address challenges and opportunities with a small group of people.  When you take a narrowed challenge to your organization you will almost always be surprised by three things: a) how many options you really have, b) how much information and experience you have already, and c) who are the people that have something to contribute.

You Drive A Result – With a Challenge, you are taping into the broad potential of your organization and channeling their thought and experience towards your objective.  With the breadth of ideas and the resources to back them up, you have your best shot at innovating around that targeted business objective.


CorasWorks Cim for Challenge Management

I’ll touch on five key features of Cim that make it particularly effective for managing challenges as part of a SharePoint 2010 work environment.

Separate, Customized Challenge Communities – With Cim, each challenge is a discrete entity.  You can customize the contribute form, the questions, the experience and even look and feel, the categorization within each challenge, the user options, the visibility, etc.  Further, the data is separated as with any Cim community it is technically a separate SharePoint site.

Multiple Challenges into Central Process – In a Challenge Management initiative you will have many challenges.  They are easy to set up. They can all feed into a central management process, your Challenge Management hub, where they are evaluated and processed.

Separate Challenge Workstreams – At the same time, you can also have challenges where the front-end community and the evaluation process are part of a separately managed workstream.  This provides you with the ability to have separate workstreams for say different types of challenges (Corporate vs. Technical vs. Market Development) or challenges driven by different business groups.

A Single, Easy and Convenient User Experience – With Cim, users have a single, consistent, easy and convenient user experience across multiple challenges, separate challenge workstreams, mixed with general innovation communities, and, with their other collaborative communities.  When you launch a Challenge it just lights up at the fingertips of the user in their Cim Business Activity Stream. Thus, they can see new challenges, contribute and collaborate from wherever they normally work vs. having to go somewhere.  In addition, all of the collaboration activity and process activity flows to them across all of the challenges and other communities. This drives visibility, engagement, and collaboration.

Drive Downstream Results – With Cim, after you have evaluated and approved the ideas in the Challenge you can push them into downstream activities to make them come alive.  You can push them into Team sites for teams to implement.  You can push them into a PMO to kick off and drive projects.  You can push them into Program sites to implement an idea as part of their program.  You can even push them into external systems, such as separate Project Management systems.


Wrap Up

In sum, challenges are designed to let you tap into the broad potential of your people across the organization to address targeted business objectives. They are a key ingredient of the standard enterprise recipe to drive innovation. Armed with Cim running within your SharePoint environment, you have the means to just light up your organization and channel their thoughts and experience to help you drive results when and where you need it.


Innovation on SharePoint 2010 Should be Different, Which Makes it Better

This week we’ll be doing a webcast on the new release of CorasWorks Cim for Idea & Innovation Management on SharePoint 2010.  Our approach to Innovation with this solution is different from the pack of other offerings in the space.  This is because our solution runs natively on SharePoint and we have designed it to really leverage the full potential of SharePoint to drive innovation.  In this article, I’ll give you a heads up of the reasons behind this which we’ll be talking to and demoing in the webcast.

With Cim we compete in the Idea & Innovation Management solution category with about 10 other main software vendors.  Every one of them offers their solution as a SAAS offering.  They have collectively centered on a certain group thinking about innovation systems.  It goes like this:

  • we have a great solution for Idea & Innovation Management
  • we have figured out how to optimize it and offer you the perfected application
  • and it runs SAAS, so you don’t have to maintain servers and software
  • just tell your users to go to this URL and your organization can start to innovate
  • using this application you’ll get breakthrough ideas that will become major growth businesses

Now, this may appear a bit simplistic.  It is.  However, when you distill it down this is the approach.  Innovation is supposed to be an application that you can send users to and all is great.  This may be true in certain limited scenarios.  However, for most organizations, their objectives with innovation initiatives are varied to start with and tend to evolve.  As a note, CorasWorks uses many very specific applications via the SAAS model.  When the application is very specific, for a specific set of users, with a tightly defined use case – SAAS apps are a very cost-effective vehicle.

But, we simply don’t believe that successful innovation meets this criteria.  Further, we think that the core challenge/opportunity for enterprise innovation requires a very different approach.  Enter SharePoint 2010 and the CorasWorks approach with Cim…

The Core Innovation Application

Like the others we start out with a very nice full featured Idea & Innovation Management application.  At first glance, feature by feature we do offer the same core I&IM solution as our competitors.  If we stopped here, the customer would be comparing the I&IM from the 10 SAAS vendors with ours that happens to run on the SharePoint platform.

The SharePoint 2010 Innovation Environment

Let’s say you are seriously thinking about CorasWorks Cim.  Okay, so you buy it and the application gets dropped on top of your SharePoint infrastructure.  Now, it is conceivable that you would treat it as a siloed application just like the SAAS ones.  In truth, this is almost always the first though of OUR customers – “Here is the new innovation application, and, here is the URL you go to to use it and be innovative.”

But, wait.  Your Cim application is running in the middle of a broad, distributed, multi-purpose collaborative workplace called SharePoint.  It is very broadly available across the enterprise.  People go to SharePoint, and, their place within it to do more and more things.  And, where they go to work is not the URL of your new innovation app.

To drive innovation, we want visibility and engagement amongst our users.  So, instead of thinking of your Cim I&IM system as a siloed application, think of it as a solution, that drives innovation across your SharePoint-based work environment.  With this perspective, we now open it up so that the innovation challenges, activity, listings, supporting tasks, downstream activities, reports, etc. are available to everybody no matter where they are working across this environment.  Below we show a schematic of the idea that this app (like other apps) now becomes part of the DNA of your collaborative workplace.  What we are talking about is making innovation part of the daily work of users wherever they work vs. a place to go.



The Full User Experience

Remember, a key to innovation is visibility and engagement.  Okay, so as above we are seeing innovation as being distributed across a broad collaborative workplace.  There is another step to take and this is to think about the full user experience.  Typically, when we think of the user experience we think of how the user experiences “our app”.  We think of what the user sees and does when they go to that URL to use the app.   But, it is not the full user experience in SharePoint 2010 (or in general).  A user with access to SharePoint may have access and need to engage with 5, 10, 20, or 50 information resources, communities, project sites, teams, and yes, idea management communities, corporate challenges, and, business processes that are part of your innovation initiative.

The full user experience is as depicted below for Kim White.  We have bolded the various “applications” that probably relate to your innovation initiatives.


As part of Cim we provide a unique feature called the Cim Business Activity Stream that is designed to provide users with a better collaboration experience across SharePoint.  It puts your innovation apps right at the fingertips of the user.  From wherever they are in SharePoint they can engage.  New innovation communities and challenges light up instantly.  They can watch them.  They can contribute and collaborate with others.  They can see the collaborative activity and the process activity.  They can see user profiles of people they don’t know and check out their My Sites and tap into that persons social network.  They control what activity they see and thus weed out the noise to focus on what is relevant to them.  All without every leaving “home”.

Now, if the innovation initiatives are relevant to Kim white, it is now easy and convenient for her to engage and stay engaged.  Further, innovation work is right there next to HR Policies, Sales Collateral, and Department Community.  As she works, if she has an idea, she just engages.  Kim White has one easy and consistent experience across many “apps” that span the environment.  Your innovation “apps” are now part of her daily work.


An Innovation System Designed for Evolution

Now, we have the user in our sights.  We know we can put just what we want at their fingertips.  From this new perspective, the key is now to put the right “apps” at their fingertips to drive innovation.  We believe that the key is that your organization will want to innovate in many different ways.  You’ll want some general innovation initiatives such as General Ideas and specific event-style Challenges.  You’ll also have far more targeted innovation initiatives such as challenges for specific technical solutions or specific processes such as change requests for a product that is being revised.  Some might be managed by a central “innovation team”.  Others will be driven by specific business groups.  Some may be enterprise wide, while others are for specific business groups or communities of users.

The reality is that the average organization will have many different innovation initiatives.  They will evolve.  They will change.  They will have different drivers and owners.  Accordingly, CorasWorks Cim is designed to be unusually flexible.  You can quickly drop in new Challenges that light up at the fingertips of users.  You can dream up specific innovation initiatives or processes and drop in “customized” workstreams that span your work environment.  To the end user, they have a consistent experience.  To the innovation business owner, they get a unique workstream modified to fit the business objective.


Bringing It All Together

The fact that your organization has invested to deploy SharePoint 2010 means that you have a unique work environment to leverage.  With Cim on top, you can now drive innovation across this environment and engage your users wherever they work.  You have tremendous potential.  You have little risk.  You have a flexible innovation system.  You can try, and learn, and improve – yes, you can innovate.



Enabling Enterprise-Wide Social Business Processes

With the launch of Cim v2.1 last month, I’ve been engaging with a very different set of business groups amongst our customers.  These are groups that have really never gotten into leveraging SharePoint – even though their organization has it deployed enterprise wide.  They are now looking to leverage Cim on SharePoint 2010 to scale out and up enterprise-wide business processes that have been operating in limited, cumbersome environments.  This scenario that we call enterprise-wide social business processes (EW-SBP) is a targeted scenario for Cim and leverages the entire CorasWorks value proposition.  In this article, I’ll provide the overview of this scenario.  In future blogs, I’ll drill into specific business processes.


The Situation

These enterprise customers have existing business processes that require contributions from a large groups of users.  You might say that they have a big, front-end funnel.  The organizations have already determined what their process is and that it works for the business. They’ve been doing it, but, it has been painful. As they exist today, they are too limited in visibility and touch, they are cumbersome and not scalable (usually built or managed using spreadsheets and/or legacy systems such as SAP and Siebel), and, they are expensive and a hassle to maintain and move forward.

As Cim v2.1 has gotten out there, these business groups are bringing us their processes.  Here is what they want:

- Broad User Scale – They want to scale the front-end of the process to be able to engage a very broad set of users – the whole enterprise, a division, or their business group.  They want this to occur with very little upfront or ongoing effort.  They want to be able to launch new initiatives with just a bit of effort and not having to reinvent a new process/system.

- Robust Process Management – They want their core process, the way they manage it now (but better and easier), to be part of the solution.  They want it to be rich, configurable, and flexible without requiring a computer science degree.

- Enterprise Integration – They want this front-end engagement/process to be able to connect to their external back-end systems (like their project management systems) to a) push approved items into these systems or b) expose the enterprise data within the system to assist the users of the process.  NOTE: Some of these business groups are now considering the option of also leveraging SharePoint to do this also.


Some Examples

In many cases, the processes that these business groups are looking for are already part of the CorasWorks stable.  Some examples of them are as follows.

New Project Initiation – they usually have multiple project management systems, off SharePoint.  What they want is the front-end where people can submit new project ideas, get visibility and collaboration, and then, put them through a review, evaluation, and approval process.  The approved one then get pushed into their PMO or into Project Portfolios in their enterprise project management system.  Their objective is to reduce project duplication and make sure that the projects that even get considered are thought out and vetted amongst a broad, visible audience.

Change Request Management – We are seeing two main “flavors” of this.  One is driven by product groups, the other by IT.  In sum, they want to open up the front end to a broad set of users to be able to easily submit and collaborate on change requests.  Then, they want to run them through a review and approval process.  The approved ones will get pushed into their external system or into project sites or team sites within SharePoint for implementation.  The value is a broader funnel that allows for better collaboration before the change requests move into consideration.

New Product Innovation – We are getting multiple variations for this scenario.   But at the core, the business owners want to engage the full enterprise to capture ideas for new products and markets.  They want to put them through a review and approval process, and then, push them to external systems or SharePoint sites for people to incorporate into their next product cycle.  With this process they are looking to drive revenue growth and competitive strength through a bigger funnel for innovative ideas, the ability to get more varied collaborative input, and the means to target the “thinking” of the organization towards specific challenges/opportunities.

Continuous Improvement Programs – At the enterprise or division level, organizations are looking to capture ideas, projects, plans to feed into a program they are using to manage their Continuous Improvement.  Usually, these are operations oriented groups.  They are looking for ideas for cutting costs, decreasing cycle time, and overall efficiencies.  They want broad participation (sometimes mandatory), and then, they review and approve the ideas, and move them into implementation.


The Cim Enterprise-Wide Social Business Process (EW-SBP) Solution

The basic design of our solution is the same across all of the four examples above.  It is a distributed process that lays on top of and cuts across the SharePoint environment and beyond.  Below is a screenshot depicting a generic process.

Generic EW-SBP

The process breaks down into three distinct sets of activities as follows:

Collaboration: Users will have access to one or more communities to contribute and collaborate with others on the items.  They will do this from wherever they work across SharePoint using the Cim Activity Stream.  The items are all collected in one or more “communities”.

Process: The process owners then go about reviewing, evaluating, and approving the items.  It may be a simple process with a few core decision makers.  Or, they may use collaborative reviews that pull in subject matter experts and other managers.  Further, they can configure multiple stage-gates, with specific activities within each stage that need to be completed before the item is promoted.  Here they will make the decision.  And, they will manage the overall portfolio leveraging various reporting features.

Execution: They then push approved items into downstream project sites, processes, programs, or team sites.  These downstream activities may be in external enterprise systems or may exist within the SharePoint environment.  For instance, CorasWorks provides our Project Portfolio Management solution that runs on SharePoint and is integrated with Cim to make this phase a natural next step.

The core selling points of the CorasWorks Cim v2.1 solution are:

- it runs natively on SharePoint and thus they can leverage this existing enterprise infrastructure

- the CorasWorks Cim solution is largely off the shelf in terms of the core things they want for their process

- Cim is easy to use and feature rich, providing contributor users and process users with a good experience

- Cim is easily adaptable and they can see how they can tweak it where they need it

- Cim is based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform, which is a mature platform (now in v11) and gives them the flexibility to extend the solution in the places where they require some deep enterprise integration

- the price is very competitive and they are able to launch additional processes using the same framework



In sum, we are seeing Cim v2.1 running on SharePoint 2010 being adopted for enterprise-wide social business processes.  Effectively, these customers are leveraging our solution to scale their existing processes.  They are targeting broad numbers of users (5,000 to 50,000).  The target is usually enterprise-wide or at the division level.  They want the front-end collaboration, a clean, robust process to get to the decision on items, and, the flexibility to then use different means for execution (building, implementing) and or extend the solution as needed.

In future articles, I’ll drill down into specific processes and talk about specific features and benefits.


Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business

In my last post about about Cim v2.0 Communities, I talked about how our native design enables social communities to be directly tied into business processes on SharePoint 2010.  The importance of putting social activity into the flow of business is not a novel thought – it has been talked about by the social software/Enterprise 2.0 gurus over the last four years.  In this article, I’ll give you references to their original writings on the topic, and then, I’ll discuss the CorasWorks approach that makes this happen for enterprise businesses.

I’d say the person who coined the idea of “in-the-flow” was Michael Indinopulos, VP of Services at SocialText.  They were one of the first social software companies and Michael is an avid does, thinker and blogger. He coined the term in his post on December 26, 2007 called “In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow”.  In this article he makes the distinction about social tools being either activities that are within the routine flow of people doing their work (in-the-flow) vs. activity that is not part of their routine work (above-the-flow).  The point of his discussion is that it is hard to drive adoption of social tools that are above-the-flow.  However, if the tool is part of their day jobs, ie., what they get paid to do, then, social tools get high adoption.  Thus, strong adoption will occur where you implement social tools “in-the-flow”.

In 2009, Andrew McAfee published the seminal book on social software in the enterprise called Enterprise 2.0.  He is a Harvard/MIT professor/scientist widely known as a guru in social in the enterprise.  He is credited with coining the phrase Enterprise 2.0 in 2006.

In Enterprise 2.0, he does a great job of explaining various social software tools and the deeper mechanics that make them work.  He calls them ESSPs for Emergent Social Software Platforms. What I really like is the way that he distinguishes the mechanics between the different ESSPs.  He then goes on to talk about the core issue that with all social tools implemented in the enterprise – adoption and tangible business value are issues.  He lays out 6 core approaches.  In the section “Move ESSP’s into the Flow” (page 184), he specifically references Michael Indinopulos’s blog article referenced above.

He says “From what I’ve seen, ESSPs that are perceived as being purely above the flow have difficulty sustaining momentum and often wither over time.  For this reason champions of Enterprise 2.0 often work diligently to move ESSPs into the follow of their organization’s work.”

This line of thinking continues today.  In fact, the conviction is just getting stronger as the research and experience confirm the basic premise.  Just last month Michael wrote an article called “Companies aren’t Communities” (February 18, 2011) that again has at its core the need for in-the-flow approaches to social activity in the enterprise vs. above-the-flow communities.  A related post (February 28, 2011) was written by Andy Jankowski, another Enterprise 2.0 guru, called “How to Ensure Your Enterprise Social Effort Succeeds”.  He refers to Michael’s post and continues to drive the theme of the importance of being in-the-flow of business.  He goes one step further and lays out four core questions to ask as you implement social software.  At their core is the realization that the business problem and the business processes that surround that problem should be addressed first, then, you apply the social tools as part of the solution. 

CorasWorks has been tracking Enterprise 2.0 since 2006.  We decided to take a different tack then the pure-play social vendors.  Our legacy has been about delivering tangible business value with business processes and business applications designed and deployed on top of SharePoint (starting in 2003). Thus, we come from business value/process first within a distributed, virtual collaborative environment.  With CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010, over the last year we have enhanced and extended our “toolset” with the solutions and capabilities that natively open up business processes to incorporate social activities. 

Accordingly, just about every Cim solution is designed to natively be “in-the-flow” of business.  We target solutions that are “just right”, with pre-integration of social collaboration and business process.  Take Cim for Idea & Innovation Management.  We focus on rich ideation and collaboration tied directly into a flexible, very robust stage-gate business process.  The process is what transforms the idea into tangible business value.  However, the richness and breadth of participation of the social activity that drives our ideation provides huge leverage and greater effectiveness to the front-end of the innovation process.  We then enhance the downstream process itself with social collaboration activities that make it more effective and efficient. 

With Cim v2.0, we have gone even further and added a new solution called “Cim for Social Business Processes”. It natively integrates social collaboration with stage-gate business processes in a design that allows customers to flexibly apply it to many business problems.  Our approach is to provide the just right solution for the business need.  We are not too social, nor, are we too BPM (business process management).

Today the distinction may be a bit “cloudy” (sign of the hype cycle).  But, the experience of many over the years has shown us that within pragmatic enterprise businesses the middle ground is where the real value lies – over the next year it will become much clearer.


New Cim v2.0 Jump Start Enablement approach Accelerates Innovation on SP2010

With Cim v2.0, we have moved our solution for SharePoint 2010 from an app for Idea and Innovation Management to being an enterprise platform for innovation applications.  Initially, we delivered most of our customers directly working primarily with the business groups.  Now, we have a new model where we can work with IT and partners to turn them into enablers that empowers them to deliver multiple applications as part of their overall innovation initiative – we call it Jump Start Enablement.

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve personally been involved in an implementation using this new model for UCB, a $5b, 8,000 person, bio-pharmaceutical, headquartered in Belgium.  In this article, I’ll walk through this implementation and the new Jump Start Enablement approach.  In effect, this is a story of how we were able to go from bare metal to an implemented system with pilots for two business groups in 8 days.

Our Customer

UCB is a very innovative $4b+ bio-pharmaceutical company with 8,000 employees and operations in more than 40 countries.  They focus on providing solutions to people and families for illnesses, such as epilepsy, that you have to learn to live with.  The way they say it is:

“At UCB our sense of purpose is to help people suffering from severe central nervous system or immunological disorders lead normal, everyday lives.”


They are very patient-centric, looking for solutions to make life better for these people.

We did our on-site work at their 24 hectare campus in Braine l’Alleud about 20 minutes south of Brussels, Belgium.


The Implementation

They wanted to implement an innovation system for the organization on SharePoint 2010.  Their approach is to have an innovation system that is a platform used to deliver many different social business processes across the organization that drive innovation.  This differs from wanting just a single app, say to do just idea crowd sourcing campaigns.  This fits into Cim v2.0 and our new Jump Start Enablement approach.

They have been using SharePoint for about a year.  They just migrated to SharePoint 2010 in the last few weeks.  The innovation system is the first major business focused solution on top of the new environment.

Our core team consisted of people from CorasWorks (the vendor), from UCB IT (the customer), and from Deloitte-Belgium (partner supporting their SharePoint implementation and innovation initiative).  

Below are members of the core team at work at the Braine l’Alleud facility.  We then incorporated representatives from two business groups in our process.  Braine-l'Alleud-20110302-00033-crop


There are four core phases to our Jump Start Enablement approach:

  • Preparation
  • Jump Start
  • Onramp
  • Enablement



During the sales cycle, we worked with each of the different players to understand their goals and objectives.  As part of preparation we then map their objectives into the Jump Start Enablement process.  There are about 10 different implementation approaches with Cim v2.0.  They range from simple one app solutions, like crowd-sourcing, to different types of platform approaches such as the one at UCB where you will be bringing up multiple applications that can be separately managed by individual business process owners, but, that are all part of a single system.


Jump Start

In the span of 4 days last week, we did our initial Cim Jump Start.  This is the technical piece to get them up and running. Working virtually with the IT tech team in Belgium, we started with a bare metal server and installed the Cim stack of Windows/SQL, then SharePoint 2010 Enterprise, then CorasWorks v11, then Cim v2.0.  At that point we do a validation exercise – what we call a walkthrough.  

Then, we implement what we call a Base Reference Implementation (BRI) of Cim.  BRI’s are off-the-shelf generic configurations that match to their defined implementation model.  By Friday, we were able to do a workout of the working BRI on their servers. A workout is a standardized set of steps to run items through a business process from ideation, to management, to downstream execution.  Thus, 4 days from bare metal to a working system that is able to be used.



On Monday I was in Belgium with a colleague to do the on-site part of the process.  We ran our Enablement process.  It is an intense, highly collaborative, three day process. 

On Day 1, we start by validating their general objectives, learning a bit about their business and then educating them a bit about Cim.  We then do a walkthrough of the existing system, basically showing the flow, as we work items through the process.

Day 2 is where the rubber meets the road.  It is intense.  We bring in the business groups (there were two) and we do an Onramp sprint.  This is a process of showing the business groups the generic process, then getting changes for their application, and then implementing them. This is done in real time, in a matter of hours. Each iteration is called a sprint following the agile methodology.  Significantly, CorasWorks doesn’t do the changes, but, our customer/partners make the changes.  In effect, it is a side-by-side hands on training, with real business people driving requirements.  Intense, a bit wild, and lots of coffee.

There are two things that enable this process to work.  First, the BRI is up and running already and is working, in fact, it could be used as is.  Second, is that with Cim v2.0, it is very easy to change things using our configuration Wizards.  This is important for the Onramp process and in the future as changes are required, which they always are, and new applications are launched.  The extensive flexibility of Cim, based upon the 8 years of CorasWorks products making this easy to do on SharePoint, is key to enabling quick changes to business processes. 

Our implementation with UCB was interesting because they had been capturing ideas in various other ways, from native SharePoint to Excel, to third party idea capture/crowdsourcing tools.  Part of our process was to migrate these ideas into the new Cim apps, instantly taking raw ideas and making them part of a robust social business process.  Pretty cool in a day.

We document the overall system changes and each of the business apps that we delivered in what we call Application Worksheets.  This documents the “knobs we turned”, the metadata changes, the branding, UI changes, navigation, etc.  It is the blueprint for each app for each business group used by IT.



During Day 2, our customer/partners have learned a lot.  But, it is learning under pressure.  On Day 3, we settle down.  We do core training towards two objectives: how to maintain, customize and extend the system, and, the process for them to onramp business groups/applications.  We explain our onramp methodology and provide them with working tools.  We are effectively enabling them as an enterprise services organization to serve the needs of their internal customers.

The enablement is further supported by global CorasWorks support, the CorasWorks Community online environment, and, our specialized online Cim Learning Center.  The Learning Center provides the documentation, articles, and self-service videos, tutorials, cheat sheets etc. to re-enforce the learning they have done and drive them further.


Some Notes about this Implementation

- With UCB and Deloitte, the entire process was done in 8 days.  That is unusually fast.  Normally, this process spans a month.  However, the UCB team and the business groups were very organized, very focused, motivated, collaborative and highly competent.  The resources and people had all scheduled their time and showed up ready to work.  Thus, we didn’t miss a beat.  Usually, quite a bit of time is required to gain alignment, coordinate schedules.  In fact, we usually deliver the whole process virtually to accommodate the gaps that occur.  When, we can do it in a focused way, however, it is much more efficient and effective. 

-  Usually, we would just use one business group and one application to start with.  Onramping two business groups, both in the same room during Day 2, makes it chaotic and a challenge.  However, the good part is that you do get very useful “real time innovation” by the cross-fertilization across the business groups.  The learning is accelerated as they see how and where we recommend changes to the other business group based upon the requirements.  Normally, this type of learning session is done, but, after the initial application for one business group is deployed as the initial pilot.

- Demand Manager: UCB’s IT has a model with a “demand manager”.  This individual works with the business groups on applications.  This person was part of the team.  Our Onramp process is designed for this type of person.  They can then use our base process to create a standardized approach for onramping new business groups or adding new applications.  This scales the usefulness of the system as well as providing governance and standards.

- Business Process Emergence: In some situations, business groups have their process all mapped out in detailed visios, spreadsheets, etc.  But, they don’t know how this translates into the UI and model of the tool they are using.  Again, the key is that we start with a BRI so they can see and experience the tool, and, the flexibility of Cim to be changed real time.  In effect, most business groups start to understand and evolve their process real time as they see it, work with it hands on, and discuss it.  This is the real power – software that you mold to your needs real time as you get smarter, clearer, and see what works.  Bottom line is that Cim is a great tool to use to “bake out” your business process.  You don’t need to have all of the answers up front, in fact, that is usually overkill.  Let the tool help you get there.



I’d like to thank the UCB and Deloitte folks that were part of this fun and world-wind 8 day process.  It sets a high standard for future implementations.  For others, the key is that this new Jump Start Enablement process is a solid way to move forward for enterprise services enablement on SharePoint 2010.  It is designed to empower IT, partners, centers of excellence to make our innovation system a platform you use that drives innovation and social business processes across your organization. 



Social collaboration and business processes: Expect them to be two sides of the same coin

As a lead up to the release of Cim v2.0 in February, I’ve been making the rounds with the analysts.  At the same time, I’ve been spending a great deal of time with our beta customers.   There is a very interesting dichotomy between what our customers want and what most vendors are selling and analysts are covering.  So, a bit of sharing…

We are working with customers on social business processes using Cim v2.0.  Of course, we are doing idea and innovation management solutions.  And, with Cim v2.0 we’ve been getting into the new breed of solutions like application change requests, customer stories, project initiation, technical solution challenges, enterprise best practices, etc…

In fact, every presentation I make, the customers come up with at least 2 processes “that would be so much better as a social business process”.  The benefit of having an easy and robust way of engaging more people and providing visibility with the structure of a stage-gate management process to take that activity and translate it into result is very compelling.  The upshot is customers get it – once they see it and experience it.

Now, the analysts.  For years now, they have been analyzing the two separate vendor categories of Social Software and Business Process Management.  These are very different categories of products.  Most of the vendors in each are different.  The Social Software people are going further and further into Social Media.  The BPM folks are getting deeper and deeper into the nuances of heavily structured business process.  To the credit of the analysts they know that the two areas are just going in different directions and they have a sense of something missing in the middle that delivers business value in a reasonable way.  But, since there is no defined, known market with established vendors they do not “cover it”, and, they have nothing to sink their teeth into.

Back to customers.  The typical story from our customers is uncannily the same.  “I have invested in all of these social tools.  We own a bunch of deep BPM and workflow tools.  But, what I just want is a process to go out and gather solutions to a technical challenge or customer stories and be able to vet, collaborate, review and decide on them.’’  Try doing this by integrating the two leading vendors from the two categories covered by the analysts.  A million dollars and 18 months later and you might have a solution.  

Enter CorasWorks with Cim v2.0.  We simply see that there is a great need for nice, clean, robust social business processes that work well in the middle.  They are not totally social.  And, they are not about deep, sequential processes.  They address the scenarios where you want a clean stage-gate type business process that is open and engages a broader group of people in a collaborative, interactive way.  Of course, it just gets better because it runs within a distributed, SharePoint work environment – so you leverage everything that you are already doing.

Our approach to the need is to provide a complete, balanced solution that easily translates directly to the business problem – without the need for integration work and unnecessary bells and whistles and costs.  As we’ve had the discussion we often use the analogy of the two sides of the same coin.  The social side is a bit different from the business process side.  Different user roles, different UI’s, different objectives, different activity, different outcomes.  But, to have an effective solution it is best to see them as the two sides of the same coin.  In fact, you should expect that they are pre-integrated and designed to work as one.  This is very different from trying to integrate and merge two completely different sets of technologies.

I am not holding my breadth to create a new analyst category for Cim-based social business processes on SharePoint.  Our focus is on delivering what our customers want and need, within a reasonable time and cost.  Eventually, as we continue to show them our customers’ successes they’ll get on the bandwagon.